Take charge of your safety: prevent lithium-ion battery fires

Power up on safety tips from Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services

You may not always see them, but lithium-ion batteries power our lives every single day. They can be found in rechargeable devices like cell phones, laptops, power tools, vacuums, e-bikes, e-scooters, wheelchairs, hoverboards, lawnmowers and electric vehicles (EV). As the weather warms up, the risk of lithium-ion battery fires also increases, with increased use of various items. Mississauga Fire and Emergency Services (MFES) is encouraging residents to learn more about how to prevent lithium-ion battery fires and what to do in an emergency.

Lithium-ion batteries are widely used today because of their ability to store a large amount of energy in a relatively small space. Think of a lithium-ion battery as a tiny container holding energy, like a balloon filled with air. However, if something goes wrong and all that energy is released suddenly and rapidly, it can be compared to a balloon popping. This can cause the inside of the battery to rapidly heat up, leading to a fire that can be difficult to extinguish. When a battery undergoes a “thermal runaway,” it behaves like a snowball effect, where the temperature keeps rising, and the risk of catching fire, increases. In addition, there are significant risks to the user from toxic smoke and gases released during a fire, which is why firefighters need to be present at the scene of a lithium-ion battery fire.

Use the C.H.A.R.G.E. acronym, to stay safe:

C – Choose certified products

Most lithium-ion battery fires are caused by products that come with poorly made batteries, aftermarket and heavily discounted products or incompatible chargers. When purchasing lithium-ion battery-powered products, purchase them from reputable manufacturers and stores and be sure to purchase products that are certified by a nationally recognized testing laboratory such as CSA, UL or ETL.

H – Handle with care

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions and use the charging equipment that came with the product.
  • Store batteries away from extreme heat or cold, or anything that can catch fire.
  • Never charge devices while you are sleeping.
  • Never block an exit when charging the battery.
  • Stop charging the battery when it is fully charged.

A – Always be alert for warning signs

  • Handle and charge batteries with care.
  • Check batteries regularly for damage, swelling, hissing or popping noises, strange odours, excessive heat or smoke.
  • If you notice any of these warning signs, stop using the device immediately, get to safety and call 911.

R – Recycle batteries responsibly

G – Get out quickly

  • Know the warning signs to look and listen for.
  • Follow your home escape plan, leave the area immediately and call 911.

E – Educate others about battery safety

  • Educate others about taking C.H.A.R.G.E. of battery safety.

Drive a hybrid or electric car? Pay attention to the following tips:

  • Be aware that battery fires may initially show from under the vehicle.
  • EV’s are quieter than gas cars. Double check to see if the vehicle is turned off at home, especially when parked in the garage.
  • Firefighters require large quantities of water to fight EV vehicle fires. Do not attempt to control the fire – it can produce heat and toxic gases even after submerging the battery in water. Always dial 911 and remove yourself from the area.

Lithium-ion battery products are used by all ages including children, teenagers, and seniors, so its important to be smart about your usage and take charge of safety.

Interested in learning more? Follow MFES’ safety tips and recommendations.

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